Why the Fitbit works … for writing

by Starla J. King on October 24, 2014

fitbit flex on wristIt’s just a little rubbery band you wear around your wrist, so how can it possibly make you exercise more? And make more healthy eating choices? And write more?

Wait. Write more?? (Yes, I’ll get to that. Read on).

So… the Fitbit®. It’s an activity tracking device, and the Flex version is sneakily disguised as a sporty little bracelet thingie with a tiny row of hidden lights and a gentle buzzer.

It counts your steps (magic!)
It gives you a fairly easy way to track what you eat (practicality!)
It estimates calorie expenditure (feedback!) and remaining calorie intake allowance (goals!)
It buzzes when you reach your step goal (awareness! accomplishment!)
It lets you connect to other Fitbitters (challenge! support! competition!)
It’s made to be worn 24/7 (companionship! constancy!)
Oh, and it sends you sweet little emails: “you’re almost there; just 3,922 steps to go! (encouragement!)

[ BTW, think a canned message can’t motivate you? Just ask David Sedaris, who wrote the folowing in a recent New Yorker article, "Stepping Out: Living the Fitbit Life":

...the Fitbit is a digital trainer, perpetually egging us on. During the first few weeks that I had it, I’d return to my hotel at the end of the day, and when I discovered that I’d taken a total of, say, twelve thousand steps, I’d go out for another three thousand.

“But why?” Hugh asked when I told him about it. “Why isn’t twelve thousand enough?”

“Because,” I told him, “my Fitbit thinks I can do better.” ]

I didn’t expect to get sucked in. I live an active lifestyle, exercise at the gym 6 times per week, and am fairly disciplined with my eating, so what good would a purdy little wristband do? But it was a birthday present, and I was curious…

Next thing I know, it’s a couple months later, and I just rejoiced at forgetting something 3 floors down because that meant I’d get three whole stories worth of steps in… TWICE!

I’ve been, as Sedaris calls it, Fit bit.

So what does this all have to do with writing?

It shows us what it takes to make new habits, like, for example, writing more. (Have you noticed the stellar frequency of my blog posts? Yeah, me neither. Seems my writing needs to get Fit bit).

Apparently, this is what works:

  • Practicality
  • Feedback
  • Goals
  • Awareness
  • Sense of Accomplishment
  • Challenge
  • Support
  • Competition
  • Companionship
  • Constancy
  • Encouragement
  • and a little bit of magic.

If you prefer instructions, here are 6 components of creating a successful writing habit:

  1. Increase your awareness through practical tracking of your current behavior.
  2. Based on that learning, set your goals (I know, I know, but they matter!).
  3. Break your goals into bits that are doable and challenge you enough to give you a sense of accomplishment each day.
  4. Set up a practical feedback mechanism (computer to track # of words, timer to track # of minutes, etc.)
  5. Build up your support with a writing coach, a peer group, a writing buddy, or any encourager.
  6. If you’re up for it, consider a friendly competition, with yourself or others. Your — or their — Fitbit says 30 active minutes today? Well, howsabout 30 minutes of writing too?

Ack, more later. I hear my wife pacing off her steps in the living room, and I still have 4,067 steps to go before dinner.

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